The 2018 Hatsu basho included some solid performance from rikishi who have struggled in the last year. Above all, three rikishi who have worked hard to overcome injury stand out above the rest, and for each man, may mark a turn around in their career. For Haru, they are ranked at the upper end of Makuuchi, most of them for the first time in more than a year.
Tochinoshin – The Hatsu basho winner battled back from a series of injuries, the most critical to his right knee. IN 2013, he dropped out of the Nagoya tournament and spent the following 8 months recovering and re-training after surgery to rebuild his right knee. He re-entered professional sumo ranked near the middle of Makushita, and proceeded to tear up every competitor in Makushita and Juryo. Though he battled back to Sekiwake, he could not maintain the rank, most likely due to continued pain and discomfort in his knee. Now at Sekiwake for the second time in his career, fans are hoping that he can return strong and continue his dominance from Hatsu. Whatever may come, it will all depend on him keeping his knees stable and healthy. With his knees healthy, he is tough to beat.
Ichinojo – There are many superlatives that can and should be applied to the Mongolian giant Ichinojo. His tall and massive body is nearly impossible for smaller men to move. When he first arrived in professional sumo, he was unstoppable. In his first basho in Makuuchi, he took Jun-Yusho with a 13-2 record, along with 2 special prizes. But like Tochinoshin, injuries put a halt to his meteoric rise. Since then he has struggled and frequently seemed to be going through the motions, unsure of his sumo, and unable to dominate in the ring. Something changed in November. For the last two tournaments, he turned in 10-5 records and has generally seemed to have regained mastery of his sumo.
Endo – Although you may not know it watching the NHK highlight shows, but Endo has a huge following the show-up day after day to cheer him on. It’s not just ladies swooning over his looks, serious sumo fans always keep their eye on Endo. Like the other two rikishi, he rose fast through the ranks at the start of his career but ran into troubles with nagging, chronic injuries. Last summer, he dropped out of Nagoya and underwent surgery to repair his damaged ankle. Since returning, he has been fighting well, and seems to have resolved his chronic problems. Endo is an excellent technical fighter, he has fantastic moves and very good balance between offense and defense. He struggled post-surgery mostly due to de-conditioning of his body, but that has been improving over time. Now back at Maegashira 1 East, a winning record here might put him in the San’yaku for the first time ever.